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Combatives could be mandatory for airmen

Service to start training program like Army's

Jan. 28, 2008 - 05:32AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 28, 2008 - 05:32AM  |  
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The Modern Army Combatives Program has spawned a similar program in a sister service.

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The Modern Army Combatives Program has spawned a similar program in a sister service.

In late January, the Air Force is rolling out a hand-to-hand fighting program based on the Army's highly successful and popular combatives program.

The Air Force combatives program grew out of recognition by senior leaders that deployed airmen are no longer limited to flightlines located safely in the rear. More and more, airmen such as joint terminal attack controllers are going outside the wire into hostile environments with soldiers.

"The combatives program is really just a smaller piece of our overall Air Force effort to better prepare our airmen as they get ready to deploy," said Lt. Col. Kevin Adelsen, deputy chief of Air Education and Training Command's technical training division. "We have always produced the smartest airmen ... ready to go out and do the mission ... but now we are producing warriors. The Air Force combatives is just another facet of that warrior production."

The Air Force sent a committee to research various existing programs, said Matt Larsen, director of Modern Army Combatives and the program's founder.

"At the end of the day, they decided to grow their Air Force program from the Army's program because of our successes," he said. "It's a wonderful thing. The best thing is, it's going to be an Air Force program. The Army program is designed to fit around the Army culture. The Air Force is going to grow their own [program] based on the Air Force's culture."

The move gives airmen the same combatives training that soldiers get, Larsen said.

"Army guys, Air Force guys, Navy guys, we all deploy together," he said. "In all actuality, this is just a step toward establishing joint programs."

The Air Force already has "several" people who have been through the Army combatives courses, Larsen said. At least three Level III- and one Level IV-qualified airmen are at the Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The Army program has four levels, with Level IV being the most advanced.

The Army made combatives part of service doctrine in 2002. As of October 2005, every soldier receives formal training in the hand-to-hand fighting system. So far, almost 24,000 soldiers have completed Level I combatives training.

Program's ultimate goal

Evenutally, all airmen will receive combatives training, though it will take time to design and implement the program. The goal is to provide airmen throughout the Air Force with a foundation of fighting skills and confidence in their abilities on the battlefield.

Air Force Officer Training School began introducing combatives training Friday. The first class of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets will receive the training this summer.

The Air Force Academy has for several years taught a combatives program.

The Air and Space Basic Course will begin teaching combatives skills in March or April for newly commissioned officers who did not receive combatives training.

The training also will be incorporated into Basic Military Training, but leaders have not yet decided when or how to do that. What also is undecided is how to provide combatives instruction to the more than 500,000 airmen already in the service, including Reserve and Air National Guard.

The Army's combatives school and its 11 assigned instructors at Fort Benning, Ga., likely will have more students as the Air Force stands up its program, Larsen said.

The combatives school has 10 classes and four mobile training teams scheduled to teach Level III skills in fiscal 2008, Larsen said. Each class can take up to 36 students. Also, there are four Level IV classes scheduled for the year. Each of those classes can have up to 24 students.

Airmen also can go to Levels I and II courses taught across the Army, but they have to go to Fort Benning or connect with a mobile training team from the combatives school for Levels III and IV.

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